Posted by Sarah Brown, Monday, 13th September 2010 @ 12:31pm
It was amazing being woken each morning with a crisp voice over the tannoys saying ‘Good morning and welcome to the British Riding Clubs National Horse Trials Championships’ . It certainly wasn’t something I’d anticipated experiencing with my young and inexperienced Irish Thoroughbred, Bee (Ghandy III).
Our first ever Event had been only a few weeks before, as part of the PDRC Novice Horse Trials team at the Area Qualifiers at Beamish (Newcastle). It was incredibly windy there and I hoped that it wouldn’t be too unsettling for Bee at her first run. A couple of spooky moments in the dressage thankfully didn’t do too much damage to the scoreline and an unlucky one down in the SJ with a clear and fairly good time cross-country meant that we were told the following week (while heading off to Tiree on holiday) that we’d qualified as individuals!
Our view is that if you qualify, you go, so we booked Guy (hubby) and our daughter Holly (3) into a nice hotel locally. Our other daughter Abi (10) and I would stay on site in the lorry.
The girls and I travelled the 8 hours down together on the Thursday as Guy had a meeting in Edinburgh. It was a great feeling coming off the motorway and following the Championships signage to park up with numerous smart lorries and trailers, all there for the same thing.
Our (required) first port of call was the stable managers office for vaccination checks and then off to the temporary stabling. Bee was not too impressed with that and it took a little encouragement in, upon which she promptly wanted out!
The layout of the event was super; plenty of eating places on site if you wanted them, showers and there was great camaraderie between everyone there. We pinned up our Scotland flag and got unpacked.
The championships were to be two day long format (which I have never done before). I was quite concerned about Bee’s fitness due to only being home from Tiree for 10 days before heading south. Thankfully my friend, Lucy Cowan, had kept her going while I was away but it was still a worry.
Being stabled next to the team from Durham was fab. They were so friendly and helpful with all my questions as a first timer. It was impossible not to keep wishing that a team from PDRC was there, though. It would have been great to have a laugh with folks from back home.
On the Friday, we rode the roads & tracks route around cornfields, through woodland and also met a huge amount of ducks on the dew ponds. It was lovely. The weather was glorious throughout; real balmy summer evenings. That evening we popped to a local pub for supper (along with others who had the same idea) and then back to work out the speeds and timings for the various phases on the Sunday. Having not done it before, I went through the stages of making it over complicated and then settled on the simplified version – ie check the 1k markers; if you’re too slow, speed up and if you’re too fast, slow down!
The 8am briefing on the Saturday gave us all the info that we needed for the competition and confirmed distance and times for the cross country. We were then able to walk the SJ and XC courses and it wasn’t long before it was time for the Dressage. I was pleased with Bee’s 37.5 score; she felt super, although had tightened in the neck a couple of times which worked against us on a few of the scores. A great mark for her 3rd Horse Trials test, though!
The show-jumping was later on that day. Bee felt a bit flat and tired when we worked in (too much partying at night with her chums!). The course was nice and flowing, although it was unusual to be presented with alternative options in the SJ. A really unlucky 1 down, right next to the film crew’s scaffolding, gave us 4 penalties to add to our dressage score. But it felt great to be going forward to the second day……
We finished off Saturday with a course-walk with an FEI Steward around the Cross Country. This was super as there were a couple of fences that I hadn’t fully decided which route to take. It really helped formulate a plan and I was confident for the next day. We finally bumped into the EFRA team, too. Eric Gillie had brought them all down together with the lovely Ann Millar as Chef D’Equipe. I couldn’t help but wish she’d been available to help me work in for the dressage, but anyhow……
Sunday dawned hot. By 8am everyone was in vests and shorts. Our start time was 1.13pm. The prospect of riding with a body protector and crash hat for over an hour in the early afternoon heat didn’t fill me with great joy but I was just really excited at the prospect of getting started that that over-ruled it. Guy was given a wheelbarrow packed with our 10 minute box stuff and the family waved us off at the start of Phase A (1st Roads and Tracks).
Bee was great. She got on with it – not as spooky as Friday - and we issued a cheery good afternoon to all of the stewards on the way, arriving at the end of phase A and start of Phase B (Steeplechase) cool and ready to go. The Steeplechase comprised 2 rounds of a ‘chase style track at a good onward bound speed. I really kicked on for the first round to see what we’d need to do to make the time. We were bang on it so just kept going. By the second lap, Bee had got the hang of it and was really jumping out of her stride. It was a fabulous feeling. As we passed through the flags for the end of Phase B and start of Phase C, my watch alarm was going which meant we were bang on the time.
Phase C (the longer Roads and Tracks) had an optimum time of 30 mins. It was really hot and I gave Bee time to cool down in the early and latter parts of this phase, using the middle to let her bowl on to get the time.
We arrived bang on Optimum time at the end of Phase C, which I was really pleased about having never done it before. Having dismounted and passed the vet check, I went to find my adorable family who were all set up and ready for us. The FEI steward had taught us the importance to keep a horse moving in walk before and after exertion (due to adrenaline levels) so Bee had a wash off, mouth sponged out and was walked round. The second vet check confirmed that we could go so I remounted and was sent down to the start of the Cross-Country (Phase D). The course was so well presented and really inviting. Well built fences; a couple of waters, some questions and some comfort zones.
Bee flew out of the start box. The Steeplechase had been the making of her as she was just really happy to move on and jump beautifully out of a stride. She had a look at a couple of decent steps down to a skinny but stayed straight and made the distance well. Her inexperience showed at the waters, where she trotted in, but she loved the course and clearly enjoyed every minute of it. As we completed (clear) and headed back to the 10 minute box, she was buzzing.
We both gained so much from the whole experience. Thank you so much to Sarah Brown for organising us, our entries and stabling and to Kirsten McPhillips, for support and advice and also to Peebles and District Riding Club for making it possible for us to attend.
At the end of the day we weren’t placed (the winner came in on 16.5!!) but this really was a truly amazing experience and I would absolutely encourage everyone to try and get there.
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